Asian Americans Advancing Justice - LA

Building upon the legacy of the Asian Pacific American Legal Center

Governor Newsom Declares August 2, 2019 as "El Monte Thai Garment Workers Day"

LOS ANGELES, CA — Today, Governor Gavin Newsom declared August 2, 2019, as “El Monte Thai Garment Workers Day,” the 24th anniversary of the Thai workers being freed from a barbed-wired garment sweatshop. The case is considered a landmark case in labor trafficking and workers’ rights in the state, and led to significant labor reforms, as championed by Asian Americans Advancing Justice - Los Angeles.
 
In the 1980s, 72 Thai workers were visited in their villages by job recruiters who promised a better life for them in the United States. However, upon their arrival to the U.S., their passports and money were taken. They were forced to work more than 18-hours a day while being paid less than a $1 an hour.
 
On August 2, 1995, law enforcement agencies raided the building due to a tip from a worker who had escaped the sweatshop. The case, which gained statewide and national attention, shocked viewers, who were in disbelief that a violation of human rights and horrendous example of modern-day slavery was happening less than 30 miles outside of Los Angeles. 
 
Although the workers were released, they were then placed in immigration detention and threatened with deportation due to their undocumented status, having been trafficked into the country. Asian Americans Advancing Justice - Los Angeles (Advancing Justice-LA), along with other community advocates such as the Thai Community Development Center, fought for justice for the workers. Eventually, Advancing Justice-LA secured a $4.5 million judgment for the workers, secure legal immigration status for all the workers, and inspired the California State Legislature to pass the most stringent anti-sweatshop law in the United States. Ultimately, the Thai workers were allowed to stay in the United States and continue their chase towards the American dream. The Thai workers continue to champion for workers rights and advocate on behalf of workers as community leaders.
 
On July 24, 2019, Advancing Justice-LA celebrated the freedom of the Thai garment workers with Julie Su, California’s Secretary of Labor and Workforce Development, who had served as Advancing Justice-LA’s lead attorney on the Thai worker case. First Partner of California, Jennifer Siebel Newsom, was also in attendance and spoke to the bravery of the Thai workers, and the commitment from the State to continue to fight for workers’ rights.
 
"Today, we honor the law enforcement agents and public servants who uncovered the case," said Governor Gavin Newsom. "We celebrate the courage of the workers who endured these conditions but refused to be broken. As we mark this anniversary, let us continue to collaborate across sectors... to ensure that no human being is ever exploited or enslaved."
 
Governor Newsom's full proclamation can be found here
Contact: 
Alison Vu, (213) 241-0283, [email protected]
About Advancing Justice - LA: 
Asian Americans Advancing Justice - Los Angeles (Advancing Justice-LA) is the nation's largest legal and civil rights organization for Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders (NHPI). Through direct services, impact litigation, policy advocacy, leadership development, and capacity building, Advancing Justice-LA focuses on the most vulnerable members of Asian American and NHPI communities while also building a strong voice for civil rights and social justice.
Friday, August 2, 2019
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